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Capital plan includes key local projects

Thursday, May 28, 2009  
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Posted May 28, 2009 @ 3:30 PM

The long road to a state construction plan may be over.

State senators today approved a $26 billion plan that would bring hundreds of millions of construction dollars to the Rock River Valley.

It would widen Illinois 173 in Machesney Park, North and South Main streets in Rockford and Interstate 90 north of Rockton Road. It would build new facilities at Rock Valley College, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford and Northern Illinois University. It also includes funds for mass transit, parks and other facilities.

The measure goes to the House later this week, and lawmakers are optimistic they’ll pass the first capital plan since 1999.

“After six years of hard work and negotiation, we are finally on the verge of getting a comprehensive construction plan that will address many of the key infrastructure priorities of the Rockford area,” said Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. “This proposal will do more than repair our aging roads and bridges — it will also provide a jump-start to our economy and create tens of thousands of high-quality jobs at a time they are desperately needed.”

To fund the plan, lawmakers approved issuing $12 billion in state bonds to unlock federal and local matching funds. The bonds will be paid off with increased fees for driver’s licenses and license plates; higher taxes on liquor, beer and wine; legalized video gambling and other sources.

While the spending plan was passed unanimously, the revenue plan passed 49-12. Syverson voted in favor of it, but Brad Burzynski, R-Clare, and Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, voted against it.

Burzynski said he’s glad a capital bill passed the Senate, but had to uphold his vow to vote against gambling expansion.

“Just getting construction going again on these roads, putting people back to work, this is going to be a tremendous boon to the area,” Burzynski said.

The program includes $2.8 billion for road projects, $1.5 billion for new schools, $2 billion for public transportation, $718 million for universities and more.

The Rockford area did particularly well with road work, getting $233 million in the four projects.
Rock Valley College will get $26.7 million for its new Arts Instructional Center, the College of Medicine will get $14.8 million for its National Rural Health Center and Northern Illinois University will get more than $30 million for various projects. Rockford College and Saint Anthony College of Nursing also could get some money, Syverson said, while local public schools could get some grants for maintenance projects.

Rockford Mass Transit District would get some money once mass transit formulas are figured out, while the capital plan could help with bringing Amtrak back to Rockford if the federal stimulus package doesn’t cover the entire cost.

The region also will get money in other ways. The Rockford Park District will get about $1 million in reimbursement for Sportscore Two. Half of the money will go toward neighborhood park improvements; the other half will pay off debt.

Singer Mental Health Center in Rockford will get $800,000 for renovations.

Other area agencies may get capital plan money as final details are ironed out.

Syverson said the Rockford region will do well because most money is doled out based on population and need, not clout.

“The goal with most of this is to take the politics out of it,” he said. “We let the professionals come up with the lists.”

This story appeared at on May 20, 2009.

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